Tuscany’s Tufa area is located in the southeastern part of the province of Grosseto. Composed of the villages of Pitigliano and Sorano, as well as part of the Castell'Azzara region, it borders Monte Amiata to the north, Lazio to the east and south and the hills of Albegna and Fiora to the west. The mostly-hilly area is known for striking rock settlements, charming villages and medieval fortifications built near major Etrusco-Roman centers. Use this itinerary to see the best of Tuscany’s Tufa area.
Pitigliano is perhaps the most famous village in the Tufa area. Before even reaching the village, you'll see Pitigliano’s remarkable beauty in the distance, as it's perched on a volcanic tufa ridge. The best photos are shot from the other side of the street: a simply stunning view! This picturesque old town is known as “little Jerusalem” due to the presence of a historic Jewish community, today well-integrated into the village with its own synagogue. The Jewish quarter is one of the town's highlights, in addition to the delightful, tiny center and the many Etruscan sites in the surrounding area. The town itself is small enough to explore on foot: if needed, stop by the tourist information office on via Roma, just off the main square. From there, you can visit Palazzo Orsini and fortress, the Pitigliano Cathedral, the 16th-century aqueduct, the Church of San Rocco and maybe even the Vie Cave.
Another famous village in this part of Tuscany is Sorano, built on a high tufa rock a short distance from Pitigliano. Sorano is defined the “Matera of Tuscany” for its peculiar look: many urban buildings are built directly into the tufa. Like Pitigliano, Sorano boasts Etruscan origins, which are well-known thanks to the remarkable discovery of ancient settlements and necropolises. Sorano also preserves a Jewish Ghetto, though the Jewish community abandoned the village in the early 20th century. Here you can visit the Collegiate Church of San Niccolò, the age-old palace of the Orsini counts, the Orsini Fortress, the defensive outpost of Masso Leopoldino and the unique archaeological park “Città del Tufo” (Tufa city). Read more about Sorano here.
Sovana, part of the municipality of Sorano, is known as an important Etruscan, medieval and Renaissance village, as well as an episcopal see, that is, the area of a bishop's ecclesiastical jurisdiction. The actual historical center developed in medieval times near an existing Etruscan necropolis ruled by the Aldobrandeschi family, who built a castle around the year 1000. Sovana vaunts one of the most charming squares in Italy and here, you can also visit the Sovana Cathedral (dating to the 10th century) and the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore, located in piazza del Pretorio, presumably from the 12th century. Don't miss the Church of San Mamiliano, also in piazza del Pretorio, or the Palazzo dell'Archivio. Here, you'll also find Sovana's city walls and the Aldobrandechi Fortress.
Part of the municipality of Sorano and located 10 kilometers from town, the lovely Castell'Ottieri also boasts medieval origins, a spot where you can visit the 16th-century Church of San Bartolomeo, home to a number of interesting artworks. You can also opt to see the 17th-century Church of Santa Maria and the Renaissance Ottieri Fortress. Don’t forget to visit another area in Sorano called San Giovanni delle Contee. The historic center features many tufa buildings. To this end, Montebuono is also part of Sorano and the Tufa Area.
Castell'Azzara is a village located about 50 kilometers east of Grosseto, occupying Monte Amiata's slopes. Among the main sights, you'll find the Rocca Aldobrandesca (only the palace and watchtower are open to visitors), the Church of San Nicola, the Church of Madonna del Rosario and Villa Sforzesca, dating to the late 16th century. Open since 2008, two galleries of the Cornacchino mine are also a great option for visitors. To visit these tunnels, stretching a few hundred meters, you’ll need proper equipment and an experienced guide.
The original version of this article was written by Serena Puosi.